Maryland is precariously close to being Uber-less, thanks to a requirement that, as of Dec. 15, all drivers must submit to background checks that include FBI fingerprinting [“Uber threatens to leave Md. over fingerprinting proposal,” Metro, Dec. 4]. This might seem reasonable, but the FBI database is fundamentally a summary of arrests, not of convictions. By the attorney general’s office’s accounting, roughly half the records do not indicate a case’s final disposition. The database is useful for law-enforcement agencies, but it isn’t designed as an employment screening tool.
Uber and Lyft already subject their drivers to background screenings by private firms that cull information from national, state and local databases. Follow-ups are made to review these records at relevant courthouses or, where possible, digitally. The problem with relying on the FBI database is that roughly one-third of felony arrests do not lead to convictions and many more are reduced to misdemeanors. Thousands of people could be unjustly denied employment by forcing companies to use a tool designed for an entirely different purpose.
There is evidence that forcing drivers to submit to fingerprint checks has made communities less safe. When Austin required fingerprinting last summer, Uber and Lyft left the city of almost 1 million people with only 900 cabs. Drunken-driving incidents spiked, and riders have turned to Facebook groups, where they negotiate fees to take rides from strangers who undergo no background checks. On its face, this practice seems dangerous.
Maryland should not allow the state’s 6 million residents to fall into that same abyss.
Arthur Rizer, Washington
The writer is director of criminal justice policy at the R Street Institute.